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Worship Series: Because He Knew
Worship Theme: He Prepared His Disciples for the Cross
- Remember Your Love
- CW 440 On Eagles’ Wings
- CW 452 Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus
- Behold the Lamb
- Aaron’s Blessing
Message: Because He Knew... He Prepared His Disciples for the Cross
Pastor Jon Brohn
Jesus and the 12 disciples were on a little vacation. They stopped in the villages of Caesarea Philippi. This area is located in the upper Jordan Valley along the southwestern slopes of Mt. Hermon. Behind it rise bluffs and rugged mountain peaks. It is one of the most lush and beautiful places in Palestine, with groves of trees and grassy fields. Water flows in abundance, since it is the headwaters of the Jordan River. Even today the beautiful Banyias Falls draw thousands of visitors every year.
As they walked along, Jesus asked them a question: “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27 NIV). The disciples told Jesus that people thought he was John the Baptist or Elijah back from the dead. Then Jesus asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29 NIV). Peter spoke up and voiced what the rest of them were thinking. “You are the Christ!” They were right, and that filled them with joy and excitement. Jesus really was the promised Messiah!
Wouldn’t it make sense for Jesus to sit down and celebrate with his friends in such an idyllic setting? Jesus was the Messiah. The disciples got it. What better reason to enjoy some rest and relaxation? Jesus knew that even though the disciples understood that he was the Messiah, they didn’t grasp what he had come to do. So, “[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31 NIV).
Can you picture the disciples—jaws dropping and eyes popping? “Seriously, Jesus? Come on! Jesus, we saw you bring Jairus’ daughter back to life with just a word! You sent us out to preach the good news of the kingdom and gave us the power to drive out demons and heal the sick! You fed over 5000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish! You walked on water and gave Peter the power to walk on it too! You called out our religious leaders and exposed their hypocrisy to the crowds! You saved a demon-possessed girl when we were in Tyre! You helped a deaf and mute man hear and speak again! You fed over 4000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish! You made a blind man see clearly! What do you mean, “suffer many things,” “rejected by elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law?” What do you mean, “killed”? Rise again after 3 days? Are you insane? You aren’t talking like we thought the Messiah would talk!”
Jesus didn’t hold back. He put it to them, plain and simple. Peter didn’t want to hear any more of it. He “took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32 NIV). Could you imagine it? Telling Jesus that he didn’t know what he was talking about? Telling him to be quiet and stop spouting such nonsense? How dare Peter be so bold? How dare he?
How dare we? How often don’t we pull Jesus aside and rebuke him? “Jesus, how dare you let this happen? Two pastors limping around - why can’t you answer our prayers and heal Pastor Jake? We’ve been begging for it!”
“Jesus, how dare you let mom get sick like that? She is one of the kindest, nicest people on earth. She doesn’t deserve this!”
“Jesus, how dare you let my spouse get away with such abusive behavior? I’m afraid. I’m hurt. I don’t know where to turn, because you sure don’t seem to care!”
“Jesus, how dare you let my child be born with these kinds of disabilities? It’s not fair! They don’t deserve this!”
Fill in the blank! When we are hurting, or struggling with something, it is too easy to turn our anger on Jesus and rebuke him. Jesus didn’t hold back with his response. “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Mark 8:33 NIV). Jesus’ answer was for Peter, for his disciples, for every one of us. Peter didn’t realize it, but he was standing in the way of Jesus doing amazing, saving work. Sometimes we try to stand in the way too. Jesus guarantees that he’s using everything in our lives for good. When we are willing to rebuke Jesus and tell him that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, we are focused on only one thing: ourselves. We want to hold him accountable for everything that goes wrong. Our angry voices channel the old evil foe—Satan. We’re reacting exactly the way he wants us to react. He wants us focused on ourselves, not on the things of God!
Jesus makes it very clear—following him does not mean that we have a life free from poverty, or disease, or pain, or anything else that we struggle with here in this life. In fact, as followers of Jesus our lives will look an awful lot like his.
“Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Mark 8:34 NIV). Vacation time is over. This is what it means to follow Jesus!
Step 1: “Whoever wants to be my disciples must deny themselves.”
Who am I? That’s a question that people are struggling to answer right now. We aren’t sure what it means to be white or black, male or female. We aren’t sure what it means to be an American, or a student, or a parent. In order to figure out who we are, we need to start with a close look at our hearts. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18 NIV). That’s who I am, from the moment I was conceived until this very moment. I want to do what my sinful nature wants. I’m going to eat way too much—all those foods that are bad for me. I will indulge in all kinds of drinks, but not just a few. I want to overindulge! I will make terrible choices about the books I read and the movies I watch. I can’t help it—that’s who I am! “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7 NIV84).
That’s who we are. That’s what we need to deny! We need to tell our sinful selves, “You can’t have those things. You can’t act that way. You can’t do what you want, because what you want is contrary to what God wants! How? Earlier in the service, we watched the baptism of Holly Doyle. When I poured water on her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God drowned her sinful self. He set her free! Sins forgiven! Now God’s name covers her and his power fills her with strength to fight her sinful nature. We are baptized too! The Holy Spirit still works powerfully in us. We can stop and admit that we’ve been following our sinful self. We have faith that Jesus has washed away our sins. We can go forward in his grace and forgiveness thanks to our baptism!
Step 2: “Take up their cross.” As soon as Jesus said this, the crowd and his disciples would have reeled in shock. A cross? The Romans had invented the cross as one of the most gruesome, painful ways to execute an individual. They reserved the cross for enemies of the state, lowly criminals, and the dregs of society. Everyone understood that the cross meant pain, and ridicule, and shame, and finally death. We’re supposed to do what? Take up a cross?
Jesus was willing to show us how it works. He willingly picked up his cross, embracing its rough splinters, and carried it outside the city walls. He didn’t run from the pain or the shame or the death. He accepted it because it was God’s plan, and he understood that his Father was going to work something incredible with this cross.
What cross are you carrying? Is it the pain that racks your body morning, noon, and night? Is it the ugly disease that you need chemotherapy and surgery to fight? Is it a disability that makes life challenging? Is it the aging process that robs us of mobility, and clear hearing, and sight? Is your cross a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, and so makes mocking and ridicule a regular part of your life? What if you didn’t have to carry that cross? There’s a story of a man who goes to Jesus wanting to trade out his cross for an easier one. He tells the Lord, “I see the crosses that others are carrying and theirs look so much lighter. Why does my cross have to be so unmanageable and heavy? Other people carry their cross with ease and mine makes my life miserable.”
Jesus led the man to a room full of crosses and offered him the chance to pick out a different cross. The man looked high and low. He saw bigger crosses—definitely much heavier than his own. He found smaller crosses, beautifully decorated with jewels, but when he picked one up he realized the jewels cut painfully into his skin. Some had rough edges that would rub and tear away at the skin. Others were oddly shaped and were awkward to carry. Finally, he saw a simple wooden cross. He picked it up. It felt like it was the right size and he could handle it. He told Jesus, “That’s the one!” “Are you sure?” “Yes, Lord.” Jesus told him, “Little lamb, that is the cross you walked in here with.”
Everyone carries a cross. Jesus knows, and promises to help us carry it through the third step: “Follow me!” Where do we go with our crosses? The same place Jesus did. He took his cross to Calvary. He died on it. Then he did what he promised: “after three days [I will] rise again” (Mark 8:31 NIV). As we walk through our lives we carry the burden, the shame, the hurt, the pain—all of the awful evidence that we live in a sinful world and live in sinful bodies—right to the end. Jesus promised, “Whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it!” (Mark 8:36 NIV). That’s what Jesus wants for all of us—to save our souls. Jesus asked the hard question: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36 NIV). The answer is: it’s not good! There is nothing in this world more valuable than the soul that lives in each of us. There is nothing more important than our relationship with Jesus as our Savior. Follow him! Spend time listening to his Word! Celebrate our amazing, astounding Savior! Immerse yourself in the waters of your baptism and float in that precious, cleansing bath! Follow him on the bright shiny days, and follow him on the dark days when the shadow of death is hanging over you. Follow him, because you know what? Jesus will always be there to lead you, to guide you, and to bring you safely home! Amen.